In 1999 the ACS Magazine Information Age ran a two-page feature on what it called better, cheaper digital cameras. The ACS has always been vendor neutral, and in this article that trend continued with reviews of hardware from the three big vendors at the time. To give you an idea of how much time has changed this space, those vendors were HP, Sony and Kodak. Only one of those remains as a player in the camera space.
Now that we are 16 years down the track, we can look back at the advances being made and realize just how far we have come.
The first camera reviewed was the HP PhotoSmart C30 – billed as offering true megapixel resolution for the bargain basement price of $399 ($539 in today’s money). The trade off for the bargain price was the lack of optical zoom (digital zoom doesn’t even rate a mention), which we are told, isn’t too much of an issue due to the impressive 1152x872 pixel resolution.
Other downsides were the serial cable transfer and lack of buttons, which affected functionality, and the small and dim LCD. Of course the camera came with Microsoft Picture It! 1999 so you could edit and ‘finish’ your photos.
The next model reviewed came from established camera house Kodak, so expectations were high. With a price tag of $1999 (or an eye watering $2700 in today’s money) it was critical those expectations were met. Well, onboard storage in the Kodak DC265 had been doubled…. to 16MB. It was powered by AA batteries and offered lower compression ratios to deliver better image quality.
Of course, the aim of the camera was to take high quality pictures, and at that it excelled. Not only did it take great pictures but held up to 106 standard resolution shots, or 21 super resolution shots – (which still comes out at under 1MB per shot, potentially placing use of the word ‘super’ into question).
The DC265 scored with its many useful features, including fast USB transfer and flexibility for ‘professional grade’ use, but the dim LCD and high price worked against it.
Finally we get to the Sony Digital Mavica MVCFD81. Looking like something out of a dystopian movie, the Sony was considered a best seller for one reason and one reason alone – the floppy disk. Unfortunately each floppy could only hold 11 pictures, and with only a 2x speed drive, rapid fire shooting was out of the question.
However, with the soon to be released upgrade to the MVCFD83 the drive speed would be increased to 4x, making it faster to store your stunning 1280x960 shots. All of this was available for just (!) $1999 with the only shortfall being on the quality of the LCD.
Digital cameras has totally and irreversibly changed the way we live our lives and record our lives, and while it is still possible to use film based cameras, fewer people than ever are making that choice. The mobile camera is now the camera of choice, and Apple proudly claim that more photos are taken on an iPhone every day than by any other camera. In fact, this article is being written on one – a feat which could not be achieved by any of the cameras reviewed in 1999.
To put it in perspective, my iPhone camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels, with panorama shots up to 43 megapixels. I don’t have a floppy drive, but the unit does have internal memory of 128GB, and the LCD automatically adjusts in sunlight – all for dramatically less cost than any of the cameras reviewed.
What a world we live in.